Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Catafalque, derived from the Italian word catafalco , literally means a scaffold or elevation, but in its strictly liturgical sense the word is employed to designate the cenotaph-like erection which is used at the exequial offices of the Church, and takes the place of the bier whenever the remains are not present. It is covered with a black cloth or pall, on which there is a cross either of white or some other colour (De Herdt, Praxis Sac. Lit., II, 328). The catafalque is usually placed immediately outside the sanctuary, and is the centre of the ceremonies of that part of the exequial office known as the absolution, receiving the same attention as the corpse would if present. Hence it is that lights burn around the catafalque during the function, and it is aspersed with holy water and incensed. During the absolution at the catafalque the cross-bearer should always stand between it and the door of the church, the celebrant or officiant being at the other end, between it and the sanctuary. When it is not possible for any reason to have a catafalque, its place may be supplied by a square piece of black cloth ( pannus niger ), which should be laid in front of the lowest step of the altar, and be sprinkled with holy water and incensed at the proper time by the officiant. Formerly the word was used to designate the bier or structure on which the corpse rested. No flowers should be used in connection with it, but it is allowable in the case of deceased prelates to mount their insignia to show the dignity, and in the case of nobles to display the family coat of arms , together with coronets, orders, and other insignia, to show the rank of the deceased. A very notable monument of this kind was that erected to the memory of Michelangelo by his brother artists on the occasion of his funeral in the Church of Santa Croce, Florence.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 13:1-11
1 Yahweh said this to me, 'Go and buy a linen ... Read More

Psalm, Deuteronomy 32:18-19, 20, 21
18 (You forget the Rock who fathered you, the God who ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:31-35
31 He put another parable before them, 'The kingdom ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 28th, 2014 Image

St. Innocent I
July 28: Innocent was born at Albano, Italy. He became Pope, succeeding ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter